The Value of Studies

Value Sketching is one of the key elements of design, so it’s a good idea to know where you are going to be placing your darks and lights. Doing value sketches on inexpensive paper will make it easier for you to do your final piece of art on the more expensive, higher quality paper.
If you make value sketching a habit, you’ll save a lot of time and make fewer mistakes. As simple as value sketches are, keep these guidelines in mind to help you get the most out of this initial process.
1. Do a value chart like the one I’ve done shown above. In this value chart you want to section 10 rectangle slots and number them from 1-10. Using a piece of charcoal, work your way to #1 being white and everything in between is to be slightly darker until you get to black at #10.

Thumbnail sketches only take a few minutes to do and can make a big difference in your art. Unless you can visualize your lights and darks without putting them down on paper, it’s a good idea to make a few quick value sketches before beginning your drawing or painting.

2. Keep value sketches small. 3’x4’ or so to make the process quicker.
3. Forget neatness at this stage because these are simply tools, not finished pictures.
4. Use only a few values. Three are usually adequate. Use black for the darkest areas, white for the brightest and a single gray for the mid tones. Later in the actual drawing, you can use a wider range of grays.

5. Even though you intend to draw in pencil, you might use markers for your value sketches, as I’ve done in the example here. Broad felt tip markers speed things up and have the advantage that each has a definite darkness (unlike a pencil which depends on the pressure you apply). You can use a black and a gray marker plus the white of your paper to get a clearly defined set of values.

Was this helpful to you? Did it inspire you to pick up your sketch book again? I’d like to know what you think.

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